As the pandemic led to an increase in using online platforms for education purposes, and kids spent even more time online, studies are showing that unfortunately cyberbullying also increased for elementary through high school, too.
Misinformation, hate and harassment are often sited by social media users as increasing in general for all ages, according to a Pew Research Center study. According to that study, 64% of Americans said social media had a mostly negative effect on the way things are going in the country today. When it comes to kids, however, it’s even worse. According to L1ght, an organization that tracks online harassment, there has been a 70% increase in cyberbullying in just a few months.
Now that many parents are working from home, they have more opportunities to be involved or informed about what their kids are doing online, and how their activities online might be affecting them. Mandatory stay-at-home orders, remote online schooling, and social distancing can cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, which can leave children open to either lashing out, or being victims of online bullying.
If you are concerned about your child, here are a few things you can do:
- Place computers that children use in high-traffic areas of your home where you can easily see what they are doing. Remember that the internet is also available on phones and tablets, so be sure to monitor all devices.
- Know what social media accounts your child is using and regularly talk to them about their activities through these accounts and your rules for safe behavior online.
- Be proactive. Talk to children about how to handle potentially dangerous situations before they happen such as someone asking them to meet in person. Agree on a plan for handling these situations that includes notifying adults or the proper authorities.
- Know the lingo that kids are using online. We all know what LOL and OMG means, but online speak goes way beyond that. Kids have developed practically a whole new language of acronyms they use online to get around parent oversight. For instance, POS stands for Parent Over Shoulder. ASL is asking for age, sex, and location. And WYCM is “will you call me.”
Most important of all – talk to your children about what is happening. It is important to have honest conversations with kids about what they are going through. Be sure to let kids know it is safe for them to be open about their problems. Give them regular opportunities to share with you without fear of “getting in trouble.” Many kids would rather endure the bullying than risk losing technology privileges or contact with their friends.
It’s no secret that we love the internet, but when it comes to safety, security, and peace-of-mind, it’s best to remind children that often times the most valuable connections you can have are those made in real life, rather than on the internet.